In other Peoples Shoes

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Gunnar Zarncke

Jan 19, 2016, 2:28:44 PM1/19/16
to Less Wrong Parents

Part of Philosophy with Children Sequence

"Assume you promised your aunt to play with you nieces while she goes shopping and your friend calls and invites you to something you'd really like to do. What do you do?"

This was the first question I asked my two oldest sons this evening as part of the bed time ritual.

I had read about Constructive Development Theory and wondered if and how well they could place themselves in other persons shoes and what played a role in their decision. How they'd deal with it. A good occasion to have some philosophical talk.

This is the (shortened) dialog that ensued:

The immediate answer by A: "I will watch after the girls."

Me: "Why?"

A: "Because I promised it."

B: "Does A also promise it and get a call?"

Me: "This is about your nieces and your friend, not about your brother."

B: "But I need this for my answer."

Me: "I don't see why, but OK, assume that he is not involved."

B: "Because I would ask him whether he might play with the girls in exchange for a favor."

Me: "OK, but please assume that he is away."

B: "Then I could ask my aunt whether somebody else can watch for the girls or whether I could do it together with my friend."

Me: "Please assume that she doesn't find somebody and that she doesn't want somebody she doesn't know in her house."

B: "Then I'd do it."

Me: "Why?"

B: "Because I promised it. I'd tell my friend that we can do it another time."

We had another scenario: "Imagine that you and a fellow pupil C are guests at a friend and having a meal. You know that C is from a family that is very strict about not eating a kind of food that you like very much. Would you advise C to eat it or not?"

A (quickly): "I'd advise to not eat it."

Me: "Why?"

A: "I like rules."

B (after some consideration): "I'd advise to follow their heart."

Me: "And if you were C?"

B: "I'd at least try a bit."

(this was followed with a discussion about the possible long-term consequences)

I was still not clear whether this implied whether he followed only his preferences considered this in the context of the rules in the family. So I proposed a setting where he had to imagine being in another country with different laws. We settled on a rule he accepts here (indemnification) but that was much harsher in the other country. He asked whether he had the same feelings as here which after some clarification I confirmed. He argued that he wouldn't like the rule in the other country because it set questionable incentives: "If the punishment is that strong that tells people that it is OK to punish equally strong normally."

No need to say that I'm quite proud of my sons.

Robin Lee Powell

Jun 22, 2016, 10:54:35 PM6/22/16
to Gunnar Zarncke, Less Wrong Parents
Those are cool stories. :) I wonder whether my 4.5 year olds could
do hypotheticals at all. I don't think K would sit still long
enough (metaphorically speaking), but F might.

On Tue, Jan 19, 2016 at 11:28:44AM -0800, Gunnar Zarncke wrote:
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